"The story is serious. The characters are hilarious."
— Jeff Kapalka, The Post-Standard
Drive is a scifi webcomic by Dave Kellett, author of Sheldon. It takes place a few hundred years in the future, in which humanity has discovered FTL space travel in the form of the Ring Drive, and has a large intergalactic empire, ruled from Madrid, on Earth. They are at war with mysterious aliens, called the Continuum of Makers, who invented the Ring Drive humans "discovered".The story mainly follows an amnesiac lizard creature, using the name "Skitter", with an impossible talent for piloting ring ships, which even the Continuum can't match. But we're also shown some of the politics of La Familia, who closely guard the secrets of the Ring Drive in order to keep in power, and the history of a certain individual of the Continuum, which for lack of a name will be referred to as the "Rogue Maker".
Nosh: No...but I am very good hugger. [picks Tesskan up from behind with a "hug"]
Also, Veetans in general. An info page lists the Tesskans flash-bombing a Veetan planet as the critical error in the three year Tesskan/Human war. The resultant mobilisation of the Veetan Defence Force resulted in Tesskil being conquered a week later.
Big Eater: Veetans. There's an in-universe poem about the sight of a Veetan eating. It ends, "A Veetan eating is not joy, but more like abject fear"
The Continuum reproduce asexually, are born from silica-based cocoons with basic knowledge and motor skills after a 2-day term, and they feel nothing unusual.
Skitter's mohawk can detect gravity waves, allowing him to maneuver around obstacles nobody else would notice until too late.
Fillipods look kind of like caterpillars, and their legs/feet/stalks have an incredible grip via Van der Waals forces. They have a stinger on their head which injects its target with a sedative, which works even on the Fillipod it came from. Also, they're incredibly "huggable" to the point that pillow companies are trying to make pillows that feel like a Fillipod.
The Vinn are actually a number of species infected with a parasite, but this parasite spreads a number of useful genetic traits across each of those species. So most Vinn tend to have "bioelectrogenesis, venomous necrotoxins, chromataphore cells in their skin/hides, sharp vision due to minimal diffraction of incoming light, and shark-like electroreception".
Nosh(mid-fight): Maybe you forget why you lost the war, Tesskan. You didn't lose because of the humans...you lost because you made my lovely, joyful, peace-filled people...PISSED OFF.
Cutting the Knot: The Tesskans, in their city-sized stolen Continuum ship, were attacked by another Continuum ship. The Tesskans still hadn't figured out the weapons systems on their ship, so they just drove right through the attacking ship.
Deflector Shields: Mentioned, but averted. Armada ships, at least, only have a sort of energy field which vaporizes small debris. Not nearly enough to be called a Deflector Shield.
Disproportionate Retribution: How La Familia deals with anyone who tries to steal the secret of the Ring Drive, because that would put their supreme power in danger.
Faster-Than-Light Travel: A mix of the first and second varieties. The first Emperor, Conrado I, hypothesized it worked by pinching space together to hop across the top, so to speak. But in practice you still have to worry about running into stuff along the way, suggesting the Drive makes constant little jumps to achieve a warp drive-like effect.
Misapplied Phlebotinum: Averted viciously. If the space being pinched by a ring drive is occupied by a planet, then that planet will suffer massive tremors. The bigger the ship, the more severe the quakes. This has been taken to the logicalconclusion.
Maker: Prepare a leap directly above the planet. We shall crack it like an egg.
Narration: Evolution is funny. Generation after generation of Fillipods were naturally selected for stalks capable of ever-stronger van der waals forces. Basically, for reasons of diet. The Winter Tilla fruit has an amazing combination of proteins, carbs, and vitamins... but has a tree bark that's glass-smooth, and impossible to climb. Hence the natural selection towards van der waals forces: the Fillipods who could climb... could live to breed. It's an ability that's kept them alive for thousands of years. And, oddly enough, did so again when their planet was cracked in half... and every Tesskan alive was flung 30 meters in the air.
Planet Killer: Every single Drive-equipped ship can cause seismic events on a planet by pinching too close to it, see the Misapplied Phlebotinum entry above. When a ship is big enough, well...
A double whammy of Plot Time and Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale, in a way that negatively impacts the internal consistency of the story. The ring drive is the only way to travel FTL in this universe, and only humans and the Continuum have it. However, the Veetans somehow crossed lightyears in something less than a week to end the Tesskan war after one of their worlds was somehow bombed by Tesskans trying to attack Earth, hundreds of species come together to trade at locations like Slaughter, and there are multiple civilizations spanning tens of thousands of light years. And the crew just took a hop on a sublight freighter to Slaughter, where Empire ships are not welcome.
The only really bad example is the crew hitching a ride to Slaughter in a very short time. The Veetans were already part of the Empire by the time of the Tesskan War. Veetans also had centuries of spaceflight before meeting humans, enough time for sublight ships to get at least one colony between Tesskil and Earth. (Or for them to get such a world after human contact, too.) And we don't know enough about the distant, far-flung alien civilizations to say at all what they're like - the denizens' life spans or psychologies, or if those are more like meta-societies defined by what old species have settled where over millennia of travel. Drive would hardly be the first story to propose such a thing.
Poor Communication Kills: Literally. The language of the Continuum is so complex and nuanced, traditional translator devices can't decipher the whole thing. This leads a Tesskan to decapitate a Maker out of frustration.
Properly Paranoid: Standard procedure for all imperial ring ships returning to Earth is that nobody but the captain may steer the ship in to dock, and Earth's coordinates are to be top secret, and never recorded anywhere. This is because before this policy was implemented, the Tesskans captured a ship, and the Fillipods were able to recover Earth's coordinates from it. If not for the Fillipods keeping the secret of the ring drive to themselves, the Tesskans would have won the resulting war.
Quest for Identity: Skitter. Fortunately, he's been roped into a hunt for his own home planet.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Drive is serviced and run exclusively by members of La Familia, though they also take great pains to keep it that way; see Disproportionate Retribution above. Of course, this means La Familia is in fact very large to be able to maintain a multi-species interstellar empire's worth of ships - so large that only a small core has a realistic chance of being anywhere close to the throne, though the rest do still get perks to go with their responsibilities.
Stealth Hi/Bye: The Tres Primos do this to Fernando while he is alone on the Machito.
Fernando:MAAAH! HOW'D YOU GET ON BOARD??
The Emperor: The current Emperor killed his uncle for the position, and framed Nosh.
The Empire, The Federation: It's technically an Empire, but it shares parts of both of these tropes. For example, they formed an alliance with the Veetans, which is a trait of The Federation. But anyone with blood ties to the royal family (La Familia) gets extra privileges, everywhere, which seems to fit The Empire trope more.
The Mole: Orla O'Malley is actually part of La Familia like Fernando, but only the reader knows this: She's here to keep an eye on the crew.
Still, it might've been worse. Nosh's ideas were "Pablo Picasso", "Mr. Fancy Pants", and "Boopsie-Diddle".
Uplifted Animal: Fekk Dragons are usually barely intelligent enough to learn only a handful of words, and if one of those is "Food" it's all they'll ever say. But the one in the arena on Slaughter is also a Vinn, and is intelligent enough to speak fluently, and recognize Orla and deliberately intimidate her.
The Virus: The Vinn aren't actually a single species; they're at least 14 species all infected with the Vinn parasite. The parasite bonds to the nervous system and restructures the brain, resulting in an entirely new, unique mind. Most, possibly all Vinn are trying to spread across the galaxy in an attempt to find their "gods", who developed the parasite as a misguided cure for an unknown affliction.
It's implied this is an empty quest since their creators' homeworld was nuked into oblivion in a desperate attempt to wipe out the parasite - possibly by the few surviving creators themselves. Unfortunately, the parasite was already able to spread on its own.
Wham Episode: Every now and again, a page will reveal something shocking, even if the consequences of the revelations aren't apparent at the time.
The strips detailing the "Rogue Maker's" actions turn out to lead up to the events of the very first strips.
The "Tres Primos" came out of retirement recently. Their pilot happens to be the same species as Skitter. Not to mention they strongly hint that Fernando is the previous Emperor's true heir. "Pequeño rey," indeed.